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The Death of Compromise

Mar. 3, 2011
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Someone extremely intelligent—no one seems to know if it was a Democrat or Republican—once said: "Politics is the art of compromise."

Elected officials from different parties frequently represent different voters and different interests.

What makes democracy work for everyone in America is when all those people sit down and figure out how they can come to an agreement that takes into account the legitimate interests of all sides.

In a democracy, the idea is not that when one party or the other gains power by winning, say, 52% of the vote in Wisconsin, the governor has a license to pass laws to crush the other side.

Yet that is exactly what Republican Gov. Scott Walker said he was ready to do when a telephone caller claiming to be billionaire David Koch, one of Walker's largest campaign contributors, urged Walker to "crush these bastards."

Just because Walker, with a Republican majority in the Legislature, has unchecked power to destroy collective bargaining rights that have existed for more than half a century for public employees doesn't make it right.

"My way or the highway" is really the sign of an inept politician.

The most effective Wisconsin Republican governor in our lifetimes was former Gov. Tommy Thompson. When Thompson wanted something, he would get all sides together in a room and wouldn't let anyone come out until he got an agreement.

Dividing people in politics is easy. Bringing them together is hard.

One of the saddest scenes in modern politics was last April when Thompson, desperate for an audience, chose a right-wing tea party rally in Madison to announce he wouldn't run against Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

Tea party extremists had not yet backed a candidate. Later they would support Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson, whose only apparent qualification was that he had once read a novel by Ayn Rand without seeing through its simplistic, right-wing propaganda.

But one thing the angry tea party knew was it wanted no part of Thompson, one of those dreaded professional politicians who believed government should accomplish things for people.

Tea party groups from around the state publicly boycotted the rally because Thompson was allowed to speak.

The same tea party hatred threatens longtime conservative Republicans such as Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar in 2012 for not being extreme enough.

As conservative as Thompson, Hatch and Lugar are, they have occasionally compromised with Democrats to make government work.

Ruthless Tactics Revealed

Walker, a true tea party governor, doesn't want government to work. His claim that destroying collective bargaining rights is necessary to balance the state budget is the most brazen of political lies.

Wisconsin public employees proved that to the nation when they agreed to give Walker every financial concession he claimed was necessary to close the state's budget deficit in exchange for retaining bargaining rights.

Instead of a win-win, Walker says he will settle for nothing less than, in the words of the fake David Koch, crushing these bastards.

That sleazy phone conversation in which Walker says he considered planting phony troublemakers to discredit the citizen rallies against him and looks forward to being (illegally) flown to California by "Koch" to be shown a high, old time ("Outstanding!") revealed the real man behind Walker's fake choir-boy demeanor on national TV.

Walker's ruthless union-busting tactics came out of the blue after a deceptive election campaign built around an instantly broken political promise to create 250,000 jobs. Now he's rejecting nearly $200 million in federal funds to create jobs and instead issuing pink slips.

People are asking whether this was the way Walker ran Milwaukee County as county executive for eight years.

The answer is: not really. But then Walker never really ran Milwaukee County as county executive. The County Board did.

Walker's political gimmick was to introduce a budget every year that did not raise taxes from whatever the County Board had budgeted the year before.

That wasn't hard to do because Walker never worried about including enough funds to run the county. He counted on the County Board to be responsible enough to increase his proposed budget to keep the courts open, allow the district attorney to investigate crimes and keep other county services operating.

Former state Sen. Jim Sullivan, who unsuccessfully campaigned to succeed Walker as county executive, blamed the Milwaukee County Board for Walker's election as governor.

Sullivan said if the County Board had just once been irresponsible enough to pass the budget submitted by Walker, the ensuing governmental disaster would have been so devastating Walker could never have won another election.

Here's the scary part: With both Republican houses of the Legislature refusing to compromise with Democrats and ready to pass whatever irresponsible legislation Walker sends them, the devastation this time could ravage public education, community safety and every other government function throughout the entire state.


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